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Wednesday's Women in STEM: Mary Anderson

For today’s Wednesday’s Women in STEM, we will talk about the inspiring and creative Mary Anderson! Mary Anderson was born to John C. and Rebecca Anderson in post civil war Alabama, a time when few women went to college or even drove cars. She was an inventor, real estate developer, rancher, and viticulturist. Her most famous invention that we will be discussing today is the windshield wiper. You may have used your car’s windshield wiper in order to gain sight of the road during foggy or rainy days. During a road trip to New York City in 1902, Anderson noticed that the driver couldn’t keep the windshield clear during a snowstorm and had to stop the car to manually clear it off. Even though she did not have any prior knowledge in the field, she was eager to come up with a solution.

She created a design for a hand-operated device with a blade on the outside of the windshield and a lever inside the car that the driver could control from the seat.  The lever had a counterweight to keep the blade in contact with the windshield.  She hired a designer and a local company to manufacture a prototype and in 1903, applied for and was granted a patent for her “window cleaning device.” With this technology, Anderson believed driving would be more efficient, as drivers could regain a clear view of the road from their window without stopping and exiting out of the vehicle to wipe it away. 

Mary Anderson died on June 27, 1953, at her summer home in Monteagle, Tennessee. In 2011, over 50 years after her death, she was admitted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame.  Even after her death, her innovation impacts the lives of many. Even though she did not have any formal training in mechanics or engineering, Mary Anderson recognized a problem and came up with a creative and effective solution. She followed her instincts, believed in her idea, and most of all, proved that anyone can follow their dreams and be an inventor!

BY: Wafa Akbar

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